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Looking Back at 2011

2011 was a big year for the sites you spend most of your online time on. Phenomenal sites like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr all produced milestone years in terms of adoption, traffic and media attention. Google+, which now has almost 50 million users, thumbed its nose at naysayers and firmly planted its flag alongside social juggernauts Twitter and Facebook – both of which also had huge years of their own.

2011 was undoubtedly the year of the social media platform. But what of 2012? What will be social media’s biggest story in the upcoming year?

The Year of Social Media Integration

It’s no longer a surprise when we hear that a new social start-up has attracted millions of dollars of investment, nor is it shocking when we read about how an established company like Facebook or LinkedIn has amassed another 10 to 50 million users. I wouldn’t be surprised if much of the same happens in 2012.

But this platform-focus won’t rule 2012 like it did 2011. As more and more new entrants break onto the scene and the pioneers continue to mature, there will be a shift of focus from the platforms themselves to how they’re actually being integrated into existing technologies and everyday life. Social TV is an excellent example of this. Accurately predicted to have a coming-out year in 2011, Social TV has picked up a full head of steam heading into 2012 and is now a thriving ecosystem of app developers, TV networks and rabid fans.

2012 Predictions

I believe that in 2012, the onus of innovation will no longer be fully on the shoulders of platforms, but shared with leading innovators across other industries. That said, here are my predictions for social media integration in 2012.

  • Social TV – As mentioned above, social TV made a lot of headway in 2011. 2012 will be no different, as producers, networks and developers will continue to further entwine social with TV and deliver more interactive experiences for viewers, giving them increasing control over what they see on the tube in front of them. TV will become a 360 degree experience, and the industry will continue to evolve far from what it was just a few years ago. For more, Lost Remote has a great post on their predictions for social TV in 2012.
  • Social Home & Social Car – One of the key factors for successful social media integration is the selection of technologies or environments that provide an open window to potential users. Like our computer screens and our televisions, we spend significant amounts of time everyday interacting with our homes and cars. For the home, it’s all about the appliances. Look to key manufacturers to begin to roll out appliances like ovens and fridges that sync with your favorite networks like Twitter and Pinterest. Or even provide recipes or meal suggestions that are recommended by your friends (here are SocialTimes’ hopes for future social appliances). For the car, be on the lookout for either GPS vendors or car manufacturers themselves to develop location-aware sharing and recommendation (in Japan, this is already in practice). With technology that can already tell exactly where we are, is it that much of stretch to see that technology integrated with the recommendation and check-in engines of Yelp or Foursquare? “Turn left here for the highest rated Indian restaurant in Seattle…”
  • Socially Integrated Near Field Communication (NFC)NFC is just starting to take hold in the US, with only the newest generation of mobile devices coming equipped with the necessary chips. But as NFC gains ground both in devices and with participating vendors, there will be a one-of-a-kind opportunity for point-of-sale social interaction. I predict that the swiping or tapping of smartphones will be followed by seamless prompts to follow the vendor or share purchased products with friends (perhaps for a bonus discount). NFC is also the next logical technological integration with popular check-in services. Although NFC is still a little far away from mass adoption, look for it to gain momentum quickly throughout 2012.
  • Social Theater/Live Entertainment – Ever have the itch to tweet about a movie you’re watching while in the theater? Or perhaps post about a play while you’re still in the audience? Well, some performance venues are already catering to these folks by setting up social-friendly seating sections. But there is potential beyond just allowing patrons to use their smartphones in-show. Allowing viewers to access special behind the scenes content or utilize augmented reality while watching a movie is not that far of a stretch. Neither is tweeting scenario suggestions to a live improv group or standup comedian. As these venues realize the potential to draw in more customers with social, the possibilities will become endless. I mean just imagine, how cool would it be to be able to head to a concert and check into your seat and find out where your friends are sitting using a service like Foursquare or Facebook Check-in?

What do you think? Have any additions? Let us know in the comments!

Image courtesy Patrick Hoesly.

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